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Paris Hidden Gems

The dirty side of Paris (Paris Sewer Museum)

03/15/19

Never wondered about what happens under the fashionable streets of Paris? The answer is at Paris Sewer Museum, in the 7th Arrondissement of Paris. This is a small museum that, despite being located in one of the most touristy areas in Paris, has few visits. A pity because few cities offer the possibility of such an original and quirky visit through their entrails!

READ MORE –   Carrières des Capucins: the local alternative to Paris Catacombs

paris sewer museum

1889: A SEWER MUSEUM FOR PARIS

Organized tours of the Paris’ Sewers were first offered in 1889. Guided Paris Underground Tours were available during “the nice season” twice a month and visitors were transported through the sewer system on wagons and boats.

paris sewer museum

The entrance to the Paris Sewer Museum in 1889

 

paris sewer museum

The current entrance to the Paris Sewer Museum

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VISITING THE SEWER MUSEUM TODAY

Today the Paris Sewer Museum details along 500 m of their tunnels the history of the sewer system in Paris, from the former Roman city of Lutetia (first name of Paris) to its modern structure (XIX century). The history of the sewers is explained in a very pedagogical way, all in parallel with the history of Paris. The museum also details the role of sewer workers and methods of water treatment. We were happy to know that Paris is the city which has the biggest and most modern sewer system in the world!

paris sewer museumvia Flickr CC @Chris Yunker

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The Paris sewers system has 2.400 km of tunnels and galleries. In this Paris Underground City, the streets have the same name and the same Parisian street sign than their corresponding streets on the surface so impossible to get lost.

paris sewer museumvia Flickr CC @Hugo Clément

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CURIOUS & INTERESTING THINGS THAT WE LEARNED 

The Paris sewer system is also used to heat a local swimming pool in Paris. How? As in cities everywhere, thousands of liters of heated water drain into Paris’ sewage system every day. This water comes from showers, dishwashers and washing machines. The average water temperature through the sewage network is 13 degree Celsius during the winter and 20 degrees in summer. This domestic greywater naturally transfers its heat to the pipes that it flows through which then dissipates in the underground tunnels without any use.  However, a new stainless steel lining can recapture between four and eight degrees of this warmth. The system, developed by French waste and water group Suez, can boost this to 50 degrees and pump water to where it is needed.

paris sewer museum

Some other interesting things that we learned during our visit:

  • Romans built an initial sewer system along the alignment of the present Boulevard Saint Michel, flowing into the Seine in what is now Place Saint Michel;
  • In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte decided to dig the Ourcq Channel to supply up to 70.000 m3 a day. His decision followed his conversation with the chemist Jean-Antoine Chaptal, minister of the Interior at that time, during which Napoleon expressed his desire to “do something grand and useful for Paris”. Chaptal replied: give people water!
  • The Alma Bridge (1854-56) inaugurated by Napoleon III to commemorate the victory against Russians in Crimea (1854) has 4 sculptures representing the four kinds of soldiers who participated in this war. The Zouave (French soldier from the North Africa armies) is the only original statue still on its place (the others were moved to museums) and has the sad task to measure the Seine’s floods. It is not an official measurement system, it is mostly a sentimental thing for Parisians. The access to the footpaths along the river quays is usually closed when the Seine’s level reaches the feet of the Zouave. When the water hits his thighs, the river is not navigable. During the great flood of the Seine (1910) the level reached his shoulders (+8.62m).

paris sewer museum

paris sewer museum

The Zouave during the floods in Paris (June 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

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PARIS SEWER MUSEUM TIPS AND PRACTICAL INFO

We suggest visiting this museum in the summertime because the temperature is a little bit fresh.

The smell in the galleries is not that bad as you may think. If you are very sensitive it is better to visit this museum in the winter time when the smell is less strong.

The museum is open every day from 11.00 am to 5.00 pm (4.00 pm in winter time) except Thursday and Friday. In January the museum closes for 2 weeks for a general maintenance but the website does not specify the dates.

Ticket price is 4.2 € (Adults)

Address is Pont de l’Alma, place de la Résistance, (in front of 93 quai d’Orsay) 75007 Paris. M. Alma-Marceau, L9 or RER Pont de l’Alma-Musée du Quai Branly, LC; Vélib post #7.022

Post’s featured image via Flickr CC @Shadowgate

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  • Sridhar @InterludeJourney
    03/09/2017 at 5:04 pm

    It looks so much cleaner than I expected! You’ve definitely told us about some of the more unusal sights to see in Paris and i’m glad you made it underground and off the beaten track after all!

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 9:50 pm

      Told like this sounds like the biggest adventure, hahahah 🙂

  • Indrani
    03/09/2017 at 3:48 pm

    The concept of sewer may seem weird but it is important. A proper sewerage system is must for smooth functioning of city. and this museum definitely helps learn the flaws and development. I doubt if any other city in the world has this kind of museum.

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 9:51 pm

      Barcelona has something like this. But you only walk through the sewer system, there is not the museum part

  • Swati & Sam (The tales of a traveler )
    03/08/2017 at 1:57 pm

    This is really interesting and a unique way of using the drainage water for heating a swimming pool. I have never read about this Sewer Museum not read about them on – Things to Do lists. Thanks for sharing such offbeat and hidden gems.

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 9:53 pm

      For information Paris wants to heat another public swimming pool with the computers’ heat emissions of a big data center

  • Sandy N Vyjay
    03/08/2017 at 5:48 am

    It is indeed a tribute to the artistic finesses we associate with Paris, that even its sewers are the subject of a museum. This is really unique, we were not able to visit this during our last trip, hope to include it in our itinerary next time around.

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 9:54 pm

      If you did the Seine tour by boat you were veeeery close to it! 🙂

  • neha
    03/08/2017 at 5:45 am

    A sewer museum sounds so different and unique. I have not heard of one anywhere else in the world. And I had no idea so far that one exists in Paris. I would love to see it when I visit Paris

    • WorldInParis
      03/09/2017 at 10:40 pm

      I saw another one in Barcelona, but YES, this is not the kind of activity that many cities propose to visitors 😉

  • Vicky and Buddy
    03/08/2017 at 2:52 am

    How interesting! I’ve been to Paris twice now and had no idea that you could visit its sewers. I was happy to read that the smell isn’t as bad as you’d think, because that was the first thing I wondered about! That’s for sharing something so off the beaten path!

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 10:26 pm

      It is not off the beaten path, it is under the beaten path, lol 😉 If you are too sensitive to smells it is better to go in winter time.

  • Louiela
    03/07/2017 at 8:29 pm

    Since I love going to the outskirts, this post is for me… 🙂 oh, Schengen visa, please be nice to me… I want to visit Paris and its outskirts soon… 🙂

    • WorldInParis
      03/11/2017 at 10:27 pm

      Good luck with the Schengen visa, is it difficult for Philippines? Make me know if you make it to Paris! 🙂

  • Carmen's Luxury Travel
    03/07/2017 at 1:55 pm

    There’s a sewer museum in Paris?! That’s actually really fascinating. I think my kids would love to do this. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Anita Hendrieka
    03/07/2017 at 11:07 am

    Wow that’s not something tourists would read in their guidebooks! Such a cool and quirky thing to do in Paris.

  • Andi
    03/07/2017 at 3:18 am

    This is great! I have not seen the other side of Paris and all I see are the magnificent and flashy pictures of it. Like everyone dreams on visiting Paris because it feels so nice. But the sewer museum is something unique. I never knew that this is also used to provide some hot waters in some area. Nice read.

    • WorldInParis
      11/10/2017 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks Andi for stopping by! 🙂

  • Holly
    03/06/2017 at 5:11 pm

    I had no idea there was a sewer museum. Not sure it is something I would want to visit, but that is interesting.

    • WorldInParis
      03/06/2017 at 8:33 pm

      It is really interesting (and does not smell that bad 😉 )

  • Alina Popescu
    03/06/2017 at 11:11 am

    Wouldn’t have thought a sewer museum would be an interesting idea, but you’ve certainly showed me differently. I’d love to explore this, along with the long history it highlights.

    • WorldInParis
      03/06/2017 at 8:33 pm

      I am sure you would like it, Alina 🙂

  • Jennifer
    03/05/2017 at 5:01 pm

    I’m not keen on museums in the first place, and this one definitely isn’t the tour for me. Some things I just think are better left to the imagination!

    • WorldInParis
      03/06/2017 at 8:34 pm

      Ahahahaha hahah. Let’s see it is another way to see Paris, from another point of view 😉

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